Finding myself in Spain had never really been on my bucket list. When I dreamed of traveling to Europe, I envisioned standing awestruck in front of the sparkling Eiffel Tower in Paris or cruising in a gondola down Canal Grande in Venice. But after completing 5 years of Spanish classes throughout my middle school and high school years, I figured it was time to put my knowledge to the ultimate test and take a trip to Spain’s capital, Madrid. I soon discovered that this fast paced city will fully immerse you into their rich culture and history, leaving you marveling at its beauty and never wanting to leave.
So, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve changed my mind about having Spain missing from my bucket list. But don’t take my word for it — Go see it for yourself and check out these 7 things you’ll want to make sure you do during your trip to Madrid.
1. Stroll Down Gran Via
Gran Via is Madrid’s most famous street, also known as the street that never sleeps. If you love bustling nightlife, this is something you can’t miss out on! Full of restaurants and shops to your left and right, it’s nearly impossible to be bored when walking through Gran Via.
Love clothes, but are also an avid bargain shopper like me? Don’t forget to hit up Primark’s second largest store in the world (it has 5 levels!). Not to mention, the street’s gorgeous architecture shares some of the capital’s most iconic buildings, such as the Metropolis and the Carrion.
2. Puerto de Sol
Puerto de Sol is another spot you must go if you’re a nightlife junkie. This is one of the most well-known and busiest centers of the city, where tourists and locals gather for food, music, and entertainment. If you happen to find yourself in Spain on New Years Eve, this is one of the most exciting places to be in the area. Make sure on your way out to stop by Chocolateria de San Gines for some churros and chocolate - they are to die for.
3. Royal Palace of Madrid
Next stop, the Royal Palace of Madrid! This jaw-dropping building was the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, but is only used for tours and state ceremonies today. This is a must-see in Madrid, because not only is it stunning inside and out, but it’s also the largest royal palace in Europe covering 1,450,000 sq ft of floor space with 3,418 rooms.
4. Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
Soccer (I mean fútbol) fans, get ready to freak out. The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is home to the Real Madrid team, the best in the world! Visit this incredible stadium and catch a game if you can! If not, experience the tour which includes an exclusive look at the dressing rooms, trophies, and interactive exhibits. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to wander the gigantic gift shop for some soccer memorabilia.
5. Mercado de San Miguel
The Mercado de San Miguel just might be my favorite place of all. If you’re a food lover (but c’mon, who isn’t?), definitely make some time in your itinerary to check out this famous market full of the highest quality, delicious Spanish cuisine found in Madrid, such as ready-to-eat tapas and mouth-watering pastries.
This may be a touristy spot, but the food is certainly local-approved.
6. Plaza Mayor
This is the heart of the city where people come to shop, eat, and simply enjoy the outdoors. While the cafes are generally overpriced for the area, treating yourself and dining out on one of the patios surrounding Plaza Mayor is something you have to add to your to-do list. I would highly suggest the calamari sandwich or paella (chicken, seafood, and rice) - two Spanish culinary specialties. The plaza also contains beautiful historic architecture and a large statue of King Phillip that dates all the way back to 1616.
7. Flamenco Dancing and Bullfighting
Whether or not watching flamenco dancing or bullfighting seems like your jam, these shows are a major part of experiencing the culture of Spain. Flamenco presents authentic Spanish singing, dancing, music, and fashion all in one. While bullfighting today is seen as controversial, it is certainly a popular tradition that still takes place during the summer months. Of course, you can make your own personal decision about whether to approve of that one.
This blog was written by Featured Wrighter, Annika Rowe.